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Comment Re:A civil matter with a criminal punishment (Score 1) 167

So would you favour scrapping copyright and instead funding all creative works formerly supported by copyright through taxation and public funds instead, like the armed forces and policing and roads you mentioned?

I think the amount of resources directed to entertainment is excessive, so I wouldn't favour the same amount of resources being supplied via taxation. I'm not opposed to some resources going to a public broadcaster or grants for entertainment or something, but I'd prefer to see more resources expended on producing useful material, like decent educational material for school curricula, procedural manuals for small businesses (how to start and run a convenience store, takeaway shop, or whatever), manuals/tutorials for free software, free software itself (static checking source code, online collaboration), etc.

Policy changes should be progressively phased in, to avoid disruption, and ensure they're working as intended. I think reducing the copyright term to 20 years, and rolling back other measures, would be a reasonable start. I'm concerned that cloud computing may lead to a similar monopoly situation that we've had with MS Windows, so I think it would make sense to allow AGPL-like copyleft provisions for longer than copyright generally.

How is the money then to be allocated? Who decides what works are worth and which ones to support, if it is not to be done through the people enjoying those works choosing where to spend their money?

Ratings or appointed executives maybe. I expect something would work, but if it really turns out to be impossible, then scrap it. I don't see it as having a legitimate place as a high government priority.

By whichever measure you like.
No system before copyright has resulted in anything close to the quality or quantity of works being produced and distributed that we see today. The copyright-based economics of creative work demonstrably produce billions' worth of new creative work every year and allow millions to work in creative industries with a viable level of compensation.

No system before copyright has resulted in anything close to the amount of resources being consumed in the production of entertainment that we see today, so it's not at all clear to me that copyright is more efficient than other systems. Creating jobs is not a virtue. The government could create jobs by employing people to carry rocks from one end of a field to the other and back.

Comment Re:A civil matter with a criminal punishment (Score 1) 167

Fair point. Copyright can't necessarily promote both the greatest quality and the greatest quantity at once, and in practice it promotes the greatest overall value, as measured by the money people are willing to pay for the copies.

That's right, copyright can't necessarily maximise quality and quantity, and the limitation on quantity is an entirely artificial one, imposed by copyright itself, not by the nature of what it produces. Your claim that copyright maximises value misses the caveat "insofar as copyright can". With this in mind, the claim amounts to little more than "copyright does what copyright does".

My objection to most of your remaining argument is that it's subjective. You may think the world would be no worse without the big summer blockbusters, but millions of other people enjoy them. You may think smoking has negative value, but millions of other people enjoy it. ...

For entertainment, as with smoking, and fashion (think bell-bottom pants and platform shoes, or mullets and shoulder pads), I think a big part of the value is cultural currency, i.e. not being left out of whatever the people around you happen to be doing at the time. I very much doubt that I would have taken up smoking if people around me hadn't been doing it, or that I would have felt I was missing out on anything for not doing so.

The thing is, we have a much more objective standard for what people find valuable and how much value they think it is: we can look at what else of value they are willing to exchange for it, and particularly what they are willing to spend their limited time and/or money on. ...

This system makes complete sense for "private goods", but far less sense for "public goods" (to use the terminology of economics). Few people would advocate this system for public defence. i.e. the armed forces charge a flat rate, and in the eventuality of a war, those who haven't paid get cast in front of the invaders. Further, if asked, how important do you think people would rate things like a defence force, policing, roads, etc., in comparison to summer blockbusters?

Today, copyright is an economic tool we use to extend those same principles to creative works. Again, it might not be a perfect system, but it does seem to be reasonably effective compared to the alternatives that have been given a serious try so far. ...

By what measure? Value of output, or efficiency (value of output divided by resources consumed)? I don't think any other system has ever consumed so much resources, so copyright certainly ought to produce more.

Comment Re:A civil matter with a criminal punishment (Score 1) 167

Modern copyright is an economic tool. It is an incentive for people to create and share new works, to make those works as attractive as possible, and to distribute them as widely as possible.

More or less. Copyright doesn't necessarily encourage the widest possible distribution though. That would require pricing that everyone can afford. Copyright encourages the most profitable pricing, which is that which maximises [unit price - cost of copying] x [how many people will pay]. That could well be above a price that everyone can afford, especially in a market where people have very unequal means to pay.

I'm not sure how relevant any detailed wording remains if that wording comes from a time long ago, before any of the implications and capabilities of modern technology had even been conceived.

Broadening the aim of a government policy from the lofty goal of encouraging learning to also encompass the rather frivolous goal of encouraging public amusement hardly seems to me like merely "detailed wording", and I don't think "the implications and capabilities of modern technology" justify it.

Clearly that public amusement has significant value, because people pay billions every year to enjoy it.

Bollocks. People pay billions every year to enjoy smoking, and it has negative value, in my estimation. I'm not at all convinced the world would be a worse place for the lack of blockbuster Hollywood movies.

Many people study and work hard for many years to be able to create that public amusement and generate that value.

Yes, copyright causes a great deal of resources to be expended on public amusement, but again, I'm not convinced this is a good thing.

I wonder whether you also feel things like insurance fraud or tax evasion shouldn't carry jail sentences? After all, they're only moving bits in a computer and only big, rich organisations are losing money, right?

No, because there's more at stake in these cases than public amusement.

Comment Re:A civil matter with a criminal punishment (Score 1) 167

... it is extremely likely that those profiting from infringement in that way are effectively stealing real profits ...

Modern copyright was originally intended "for the Encouragement of Learning", not based on a supposed right to "intellectual property". Further, since much of the material being copied is entertainment, rather than encouraging learning, the law is essentially jailing people for the sake of public amusement.

Comment Re:Most software piracy (Score 1) 249

Most software piracy
is for video games, I would think. That's the real issue here, idiots staring at screens while twiddling buttons and yelling at bright images have lower IQs...

I don't know if you're serious or not, but I had a similar thought. I will watch movies or television programs if others are doing so, but seldom seek them out myself. This is partly because I can find some things irritating, which many other people apparently don't. e.g. I (vaguely) remember an exchange between my wife and myself after watching the movie Dragonheart. In the closing scene, the dragon dies and ascends to the sky as a star, to join a constellation that rearranges itself. If I remember right, she asked me if I found it moving, I said I found it implausible, she asked why, I said because the light from stars takes years to reach Earth, and she laughed. I assumed this was because it wasn't something she'd thought of, and therefore it didn't mar her suspension of disbelief or her enjoyment of the movie. (I was going to add that I didn't actually check, but she's just come past, read what I've written over my shoulder, and confirmed that.) To be fair, I guess this isn't really intelligence, but rather specific knowledge, or the inability to disregard it. Also, I've heard Stephen Hawking enjoys Star Trek, and I'm quite sure it's not because the writers are so clued up on physics that they don't make mistakes he would notice. Anyway, just my 2c.

Comment Re:WTF? (Score 1) 760

If we were to accept that any extension in testing were bad, and any reduction in testing were good, then it would follow that drug testing only black unemployed people would be better than drug testing all unemployed people, but I think (hope) it's obvious that this would actually be worse.

No, it would in fact actually be better because it would be cheaper and impact fewer people. The racism in the selectivity of the reduction is on just you. Just as the bigotry of testing those in poverty vs anyone getting a tax credit/deduction or benefit of a government program is on those who made that decision.

My feeling is that it would create more animosity between people, and disrespect for the law generally. Those people who were disadvantaged would have fewer allies to seek change. If the situation persisted long enough, I think some people may even come to believe it was the right thing to do. Think about DC voting rights, and whether there would be many people advocating against equal DC voting rights if not simply for the fact that DC residents don't currently have them. I think all this would outweigh any positives.

Also, I find your allegation of bigotry puzzling, since I wasn't actually advocating for this (I thought that was clear).

Comment Re:WTF? (Score 3, Interesting) 760

Extending such a screwed up program to more people doesn't make things better, it makes things worse.

I'm not sure about that. I think it would make things more equal, and in that sense it would be more fair. If we were to accept that any extension in testing were bad, and any reduction in testing were good, then it would follow that drug testing only black unemployed people would be better than drug testing all unemployed people, but I think (hope) it's obvious that this would actually be worse.

Comment Re:Why do we care about hardware anymore? (Score 1) 187

Perhaps I'm not a real-world user (at least not in this decade), but the machine I'm using has 1GB of RAM. (I got the upgrade option instead of going with the default 512MB when I got it, maybe about 8 years ago.) Besides me though, I think memory usage may also be relevant for kids with a low-end smart phone or Raspberry Pi, and/or people living in the third world. I think at least one of those probably does count as legitimate a real-world use.

Comment Re: Did they know who the culprits were? (Score 3, Insightful) 383

Nearly every time I see someone demanding sources, it's because they're whining and pouting due to not being able to counter.

I do know that it's a pain being asked for sources. I often can't remember where I read stuff. On the other hand though, I can't automatically accept every claim made by someone I don't know who doesn't provide a source. If I did, I'd have to accept a lot of contradictory claims.

Comment Re:Genocide... when's it OK? (Score 1) 287

Leaving aside, for the moment, the question of whether or not a virus is 'life' -- this question would apply to a bacterial disease as well -- how is this any different than the attempts in the last century to eradicate the North American wolf?

I think 'life' is an ambiguous term, and confuses moral issues. Bacteria are biologically alive, but so are individual human cells (e.g. skin cells), and individual human cells do not have a right to life. A person could be brain dead, but their body might be kept on life support for the purpose of organ donation. When we're considering moral issues, it's the mind that matters, IMHO.

I think sentience of a species (the capacity for feelings) raises the question of a right to not be subjected to cruel or inhumane treatment, but not a right to life. I think self-awareness of a species is needed to raise the question of a right to life.

However I think protecting a species is often not so much done out of concern for rights of members of that species as it is in order to keep the species from extinction because we want it to continue to exist.

Comment Re:The Societal Value of Works (Score 1) 32

I'm not disagreeing with you. The example I was looking for was something along the lines of the Diary of Anne Frank. Perhaps it is a lot more cloudy that I initially thought. Especially since Anne Frank is dead and the copyright if applicable would be inherited by her legal heirs.

That makes sense. I've found an article Do you lose the right to privacy when you die?, which seems to conclude, more or less, yes. Apparently in the USA at least there is specific legislation covering medical records, death-scene images are covered because they might be distressing for relatives, and unauthorised access to an electronic account is covered on that basis. In general, though, people don't have a right to privacy after they die.

But here is a different scenario. Suppose it is security footage of a house fire instead of a diary and the rest was the same outside of it being footage like this Do you think the privacy angle would be any different even though you or the home owner would essentially own the footage originally?

Since they were watching the footage 20 minutes after evacuating, I guess the camera was accessible via the Internet. I'm given to understand that a right to privacy under common law depends on having a reasonable expectation to privacy (e.g. you don't have a right to privacy in a room with a window facing a busy street, with the curtains open). I'd wonder if someone could have a reasonable expectation to privacy if they had a camera connected to the Internet and it was unsecured. This article suggests there is no right to privacy in USA for unsecured webcams: Controversial website feature shows alarming lack of webcam security. I don't know if the camera in question was unsecured though.

Otherwise, if the camera was secured, or the footage was obtained from the property itself, I'd guess that a right to privacy covers footage inside an empty home, but I don't know.

Comment Re:The Societal Value of Works (Score 3, Insightful) 32

The Wikipedia page on Donaldson v Beckett suggests that this is a British common law right, which, by my understanding, means it would apply in the USA also, unless expressly overridden. "The United States and most Commonwealth countries are heirs to the common law legal tradition of English law" Law of the United States.

With regard to the particular situation you've described, I see what you're saying, and I found the article The privacy in one's garbage, which may be relevant. From my reading, I think this would be covered under a right to privacy, as the writings were to be picked up for disposal from within the property. If the writings had been placed outside the property for collection, the situation might be different.

In any case, if there is an issue with privacy here, I think it would be better dealt with by reforming privacy law. Using this as an argument against the original suggestion for reforming copyright law seems a bit convoluted. I think your other argument was better.

Comment Re:The Societal Value of Works (Score 1) 32

But lets go further. Your house catches fire, I'm on the clean up crew that is meant to dispose of all the damaged items and prepare the area for the workers who come in and rebuild. In this mess, I find your diary or memoirs of your happy but boring life. I decipher it, put it in a novel called why flammable houses suck and use it to enrich myself while claiming to be promoting science in spreading the word about the necessity of inflammable building materials being used in building homes. It's your story, you wrote it, you do not have any copyright, you essentially threw it away, and now I have a copyright on it and am making money. Well, according to your "test" that is.

I'm calling BS on this point. A right to privacy does not depend on copyright. (In Britain at least) people had a right to not have their writings published against their wishes before the Statute of Anne (copyright) gave them the right to not have published works reprinted.

Comment Re:The Societal Value of Works (Score 4, Insightful) 32

P. How about a reassessment of copyright law in line with patent laws. Works must demonstrate true worth and value to society prior to achieve copyright protection...

Patents are supposed to be novel, non-obvious, and useful. However, as far as I know, to qualify as useful they don't actually have to be any better than, or even as good as, existing free alternatives. The Microsoft FAT patents cover a way of storing long file names that is arguably novel and non-obvious precisely because it is a needlessly convoluted way of doing something that had already been done. In any case, I don't want to see the copyright system based on the patent system, because I think the patent system is even more broken than the copyright system is.

If not for the rise of cloud computing, I would say scrap them both. The patent system only provides a net benefit in the areas of chemicals and pharmaceuticals (Bessen and Meurer, 2008), and I expect government research grants could do just as well. I'm not convinced copyright provides a net benefit at all, since for entertainment it seems to deliver form over substance, which I think we could do without, and for practical works, it takes mind share from free works. However, scrapping copyright would accelerate the shift to cloud computing, which is even worse than copyright.

Bessen, James & Meurer, Michael J. (2008) Patent failure. Princeton University Press. <>

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